Maximizing the Employee Experience
By Debra Walker, Associate HR Consultant, Chemistry Consulting Group
Since almost the beginning of their existence, employee surveys have highlighted that communication is consistently on top of the issue pile that is impactful on employee experience. Specifically, there are three components to effective workplace communication that are repeatedly the source of the dissatisfaction which are often referred to as the 3 C’s of communication – clarity, conciseness, and consistency.
This last year and a half, at a minimum, has demonstrated that issues of all types can get derailed or lost if any of these three elements are lacking. This in turn can lead to the 4th C – chaos. People associate engagement with all types of concepts such as job satisfaction, happiness, high employee morale, etc. but it all stems back to the communication employees are receiving about aspects of their employment that directly affect them. An engaged workforce is satisfied with their jobs, leading to high productivity and a commitment to the organization. There is pride in where they work and what they do.
Communication becomes a more daunting task for leadership when adjusting to shifting workplaces, particularly in times of uncertainty outside of the organization. Remote working, shifting health and safety concerns, diversity and inclusion, and fluctuating employee demographics all add to the complicated landscape that is communication in today’s workplace.
So let’s look a little more closely at ways we can positively impact the employee experience through effective communication strategies.
It is vital in communications with employees that they are able to identify your key messages. Spend time thinking about your audience and the knowledge they may or may not have about the content that is being shared. Provide context and a recap to bridge any knowledge gaps. Avoid jargon or other language that could confuse your audience or distract them from your central message. Technical language or high levels of detail may seem important to you, but they can be a barrier to audience engagement. Above all, developing the key message before you communicate will help focus in on what is wanted to communicate and deliver that message with clarity.
Aim for short, direct sentences. Remember, this is a world where Twitter exists. Saying less forces you to focus, and the more focused you are, the higher the chances of your message being received. Pay particular attention to defining exactly what you want people to understand and what your call to action is, if anything. Saying less also has the ability to be adaptable, regardless of your method of communication (e.g. email, phone, in person, virtual platform). Once you have written down your message, take out the filler. Watch for overuse of filler or redundant words such as “very” and “really”. Engage the KISS principle – Keep it Super Simple. Quite often it benefits the receptivity of your message if you steer clear of fancy or technical terminology as it may not only confuse your audience but alienate them. Stick to language that is familiar and accessible and also matches with the audience.
If the communication is in written form, formatting provides tools to get the message home. Again focusing on brevity, the longer the update, the more likely it is that important details such as dates, calls to action and key decisions may be lost. Use formatting such as bullet points, headings, or bold emphasis) to highlight vital information.
One of the hardest challenges for leaders in the last couple of years is consistency, which in communication means three things: repetition, frequency and compatibility. External circumstances were dictating to organizations policies and procedures that were evolving as knowledge of COVID and our respective actions came to be known. With entire populations under high levels of stress and uncertainty, there are some actions that can help smooth those rough waters. Don’t be afraid to repeat key messages. It can be hard for people to miss a point when they’ve seen or heard it multiple times, especially if they are stressed or the message is crucial. Regularity of communication is another important aspect. Depending on the project or situation, this may involve creating a set communication schedule to provide updates.
Open Door For Two Way Communication
So far we have been talking about how to conduct effective communication with employees but that can all fall by the wayside if no attention is paid to the stream of communication coming FROM employees. Research shows that the employee experience is significantly enhanced when employees have an environment to provide their feedback AND be heard. Making a contribution towards a common purpose impacts an employee feeling of self-worth and allows them to connect how their contributions make a difference. That communication involves having an effective performance assessment program, ample training and development opportunities and an environment that doesn’t penalize for failure but actively seeks out innovative approaches and solutions.
Always Temper Communication With Respect
Above all, individuals are looking to be seen and heard as well as being treated with respect and dignity. That includes not only listening to their point of view but providing an environment free of harassment and a recognition of their individual contributions. To have a disrespectful workplace, such as through all communications, will not only have a negative impact on the employee experience, it can damage the organization’s reputation externally and hamper productivity and, therefore, the bottom line in a myriad of ways.
With an effective give and take flow of information and communication, the employee experience becomes richer and more fulfilling. This can lead to so many benefits for the organization from being able to recruit easier with a target applicant pool, being able to retain employees to minimize the negative impact of turnover and creates an environment where all employees want to and can do their best. Sounds like a win-win to me.